MLB Goes to Omaha in 2019
Major League Baseball announced that the Detroit Tigers will play the Kansas City Royals in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13, 2019. The game will take place prior to the opening of the College World Series; an Omaha tradition since 1950. The move is a major development in what could be an emerging partnership between MLB and NCAA Baseball.
The Royals are a natural choice to play in Omaha, as the city is only 185 miles northwest of Kansas City and home to the Royals Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers. The Storm Chasers (formerly the Omaha Royals) shared a home with the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium for over a half century, prior to moving to Werner Field in nearby Papillion in 2011. TD Ameritrade Park opened the same year and serves as home to the College World Series (and the Creighton University’s baseball team), seating more than 24,000 spectators. .
The 2019 game opens the door to a number of possibilities for both College Baseball and MLB. Early June is an important time in the baseball calendar, as it marks both the MLB Draft and the beginning of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Unlike their counterparts in the NFL and NBA, the MLB Draft receives considerably less attention, and for a number of reasons. The Draft takes place in the middle of the MLB season, whereas the NFL and NBA hold their drafts in the off-season; providing plenty of time for speculation and analysis.
Perhaps most notably, baseball has never been a sport where college players make an immediate jump to the big leagues. Even some of today’s biggest stars, like Justin Verlander and Aaron Judge, spent over a year developing in the minors after their college careers. Not to mention, many of the game’s biggest American born stars are drafted directly out of high school. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and many others went from high school to MiLB. This has always been true for many elite players.
All in all, College Baseball accounts for a considerable amount of players in Major League Baseball, but it is generally not seen specifically as the same type of developmental league as their football and basketball counterparts. The 2019 game in Omaha is likely an attempt by MLB to build a partnership, similar to the new tradition in Williamsport during the Little League World Series. Both are part of an ongoing effort to hook in a younger generation of fans.
Surely, many already partake in the excitement of the College World Series, but placing Omaha front and center in the baseball (and sports) world will do a lot to gain exposure for the college game. The 2019 game will also mark the first time a MLB game will be played in the state of Nebraska. This is a win-win for the future of baseball.
**Picture from Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports**